How talent, luck, and circumstance helped Kevin Garnett make $326 million to become the second-highest-paid player in NBA history

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett has a lot to smile about.

Kevin Garnett was an MVP, a 15-time All-Star and a four-time first-team All-NBA. He won a championship with the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics. He also retired having made $326 million in his career, the second-most in NBA history.

Let’s take a look at how, more than once, Garnett was just the right player, in the right place, at the right time.

In 1995, Kevin Garnett was a 6-foot-11, 220-pound senior in high school, and it had been 20 years since a high-school player went straight to the NBA.

 

At 19, he chose to enter the NBA draft after failing to reach the minimum score on the ACT necessary for NCAA eligibility.

Kevin Garnett

Source: ESPN

The Minnesota Timberwolves made Garnett the fifth pick of the 1995 NBA Draft.

Ten years later, the NBA banned high-school players from the draft and players like Greg Oden and Kevin Durant had to go to college for one year.

Kevin Durant

Garnett’s three-year, $5.4 million rookie contract was modest by today’s standards, and he made just $1.6 million his rookie season.

Kevin Garnett

Garnett was incredibly lucky to be drafted in 1995, which came during a brief period in which players were granted free agency after just three years.

Kevin Garnett

This allowed Garnett to sign a six-year, $126 million extension during the 1997-1998 season at the age of 21.

Kevin Garnett

With Garnett’s contract a major factor, the NBA changed the rules on rookie contracts and put a cap on player salaries, but not until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached following the 1999 lockout.

David Stern and Billy Hunter

Source: “The Wages of Wins

By the final year of that deal, Garnett was making $28 million a year.

Kevin Garnett

More importantly, Garnett was just 27 years old, was in the midst of his only MVP season, and was about to become a free agent for a second time.

Kevin Garnett

This led to his second $100 million contract extension with the Timberwolves, a five-year deal worth exactly $100 million.

Kevin Garnett

After the third year of that contract, Garnett was traded to the Celtics having already made $181 million with the Timberwolves. He was just 31 years old.

Kevin Garnett

The Celtics immediately gave Garnett a three-year, $51.3 million extension to be added to the two years remaining on his last deal with the T-wolves.

Kevin Garnett

Source: ESPN.com

It was with the Celtics that Kevin Garnett won his only NBA title in 2008.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen

Garnett nearly retired after the 2011-2012 season with $282 million in career earnings.

Kevin Garnett

Source: Boston.com

However, he decided to re-sign with the Celtics with a three-year, $36 million contract as Boston tried to make one more run with their aging roster.

Kevin Garnett

After one season on the new contract, Garnett was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster deal that included eight players and three first-round draft picks.

Kevin Garnett

That trade turned into a complete disaster in just the second season. Garnett was the final asset the Nets had from the trade and it was clear it was time to move on.

kevin garnett nets

Source: Business Insider

Garnett came full-circle and agreed a trade to send him home to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2015.

Kevin Garnett

At the time, the plan was to play two more seasons for the rebuilding T-wolves and then form a group with coach and team president Flip Saunders to buy the team using the more than $300 million he had already made as a player.

Flip Saunders and Kevin Garnett

Source: Business Insider

Garnett decided to play at least one more season and possibly two, signing a two-year contract worth $16 million.

Kevin Garnett

Garnett, who was 40 at the time, decided not to play the second year of the contract. As part of that deal, he was given the option to take a front-office job for the 2016-2017 season.

Kevin Garnett

Garnett walked away from his playing days, having made $326.3 million in his storied career. That is just slightly more than Kobe Bryant, who retired having made $323.3 million. LeBron James recently passed Garnett for the most all-time with $340 million.

Kevin Garnett
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